JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Days after the mayor released a statement saying garbage pickup was now in the city council’s hands, the council has approved its own state of emergency and is looking to bring on a contractor to pick it up.
At a special called meeting Monday, the council declared a state of emergency over the city’s garbage collections, only days after it rescinded a previous order issued by the mayor.
The measure was approved on a 4-2 vote, with Councilmembers Brian Grizzell and Angelique Lee voting against it.
Meanwhile, the council postponed votes until early Monday afternoon on two emergency contracts to continue collections during that emergency.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba asked why the city all of a sudden needed a state of emergency when just a few days ago, it did not.
“It wasn’t established three days ago that (there) was a legitimate reason to declare an emergency, but we’re establishing at this moment, now that Waste Management has offered an alternative, that there is an emergency? Is that what we’re establishing?” he asked. “I know this is illegal.”
The council made the decision partly because they say the mayor has abdicated his duties.
Banks attempted to clarify whether the council could declare the state of emergency and hire a firm, based on the council’s independent legal team.
“Now, because there has been no action on behalf of the administration, that in order to make sure there is pick up and there is service… the council has to choose one of the (contractors) that want to take a stab at this?” he asked.
Roy Campbell, an attorney with Bradley Arant, said that was “absolutely right,” and that the council did have the authority to hire a firm to ensure that a “finger is in the dike.”
“The RFP process is the legally proscribed process for, among other things, selecting garbage services. What has happened now is that the city of Jackson is now under a local emergency. This is not the normal course of events… so the normal requirements that would adhere, including the requirements of publishing an RFP, are not required,” Campbell said. “That’s why the council has the authority to consider… the proposal from Waste Management or the proposal from National Waste.”
“Are we 100 percent sure we’re right? If we were 100 percent sure, we wouldn’t be asking for a declaratory judgment.”
Monday, the council filed suit in Hinds County Chancery Court to seek a ruling on whether it can issue a state of emergency and whether it can bring on a firm without the mayor bringing it forward, citing numerous instances of the mayor’s inaction.
According to court records, the council claims they held a special meeting on September 21 to discuss the mayor’s proclamation and his plans for ensuring garbage collections continued. However, “during the meeting, Mayor Lumumba did not present or identify a proposed contract with National Waste.”
At a meeting a day later, the council points to a quote in local media that the mayor said “I want to make it clear to the residents of Jackson that it is on the council to determine how trash is picked up.”
“Consistent with that pronouncement, Mayor Lumumba has made no further meaningful efforts to ensure solid waste collection and hauling services will continue… Upon that information and belief, the Mayor has not continued negotiations on the city’s behalf for a contract and related documents for solid waste collection and hauling services consistent with the RFP. Nor has he considered other, more competitive proposals…”
Campbell said he hopes to get a ruling this week before the garbage contract runs out Friday.
The mayor, meanwhile, said he has never given up the duties he was elected to carry out. “The residents voted me in to have those executive powers,” he said. “And I wouldn’t transfer them to anyone to have them in that way.”
He also pointed to the fact that he twice presented a contract with FCC Environmental Services, which was twice voted down by the council. The mayor said he then entered into talks with Waste Management but ended those negotiations after he said the firm attempted to “strong-arm” the city into taking a bad contract.
A letter obtained by WLBT reveals that the Waste Management agreement would have been cheaper than FCC’s negotiated costs. It also was cheaper than the contract the mayor was hoping to issue to National Waste to pick up garbage during the state of emergency.
Lumumba said he, too, was bringing on independent counsel to represent him in this matter.
Others also questioned whether the council’s declaration was legal. “The fact that you have to go to court to get the legal authority to do what you’re trying to do states on the fact that what you are doing is illegal as a city council,” Chief of Staff Safiya Omari said.
“I stated last week this is a complete overreach,” said Ward 4 Councilman Brian Grizzell. “The citizens of Jackson are being put in the middle of a game. They don’t deserve that. We need our garbage collected, but we need to make sure everything is on the up and up.”
“We can do better as a council. Our constituents deserve better from us and this is absolutely ridiculous.”
The mayor, along with Omari, believes the council is attempting to push through the emergency to steer the pickup contract to the city’s current contractor, Waste Management.
The firm’s current contract with the city expires on September 30. However, company officials offered to extend the service at the current rate for around $10.56 per home for at least one month.
The mayor said he never saw the proposal and learned about it from the media.
Lumumba was hoping to bring on National Waste United to provide waste pickup for a period of six months.
National Waste is a consortium of firms that include Socrates Garrett Enterprises, SRS Inc., Kingdom Transportation & Trucking LLC, Cooper & Associates LLC, and Enviromax Recycling.
The administration signed off on a contract with the firm on September 17, the same day Lumumba issued his state of emergency. Filings in the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office show the firm was not formed until September 20.
Under the terms of that agreement, the city would be charged $15 per home and would have to pay a $750,000 mobilization fee within the first 30 days the contract was executed.
Waste Management’s contract does not include a mobilization fee, because the firm is already in place.
Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote asked where that $750,000 would come from and was not given an answer.
Other council members also asked for details about the National Waste agreement, which the mayor refused to provide.
He said items about solid waste were added to the agenda a day earlier and that he was not prepared to address them.
The special meeting was initially called to confirm the mayor’s choices for various department heads. Items regarding the state of emergency. A new agenda including garbage-related items was released Sunday morning.
“This is your show,” Lumumba said. “I’m going to let you have it.”
Click through the images below to read the state of emergency.
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